Coming off three straight wins and a stellar performance by James Reimer, the Leafs rolled into the Arizona desert to take on the reeling Coyotes. Things took a quick turn for the worst though, and despite a late rallying cry, the Leafs winning streak came to an end at the hands of a 3-2 loss.
Right from the drop of the puck the Leafs looked out of sorts. They were awarded an early 5-on-3 but failed to look dangerous. After that, they struggled mightily at even strength, being hemmed in their own zone by sloppy turnovers and lost puck battles.
Arizona capatilized midway through, as Sam Gagner banged in an errant Jake Gardiner turnover to make it 1-0. Five minutes later, some confusion in the Leafs end lead to Martin Erat banging a puck off Stephane Robidas and in to make it 2-0. Shots were 10-3 Arizona after one.
Things started poorly again for the Leafs in the second, with Antoine Vermette capitalizing on a broken odd-man rush play six minutes in. Morgan Rielly and Roman Polak looked especially lost on the play.
The Leafs did come to life a little bit after that though as Dion Phaneuf banged in a one-timer just eight seconds into a Brandon Gormley penalty. From then on, the Leafs played a pretty good period.
The third period is where things really slowed down. The Leafs were pushing hard to get a comeback going, but as you might expect the Coyotes were clogging the neutral zone and making it tough for the Leafs to gain the blueline. All the sitting back eventually hurt them though, and Cody Franson was able to pot the puck into an empty net after a really nice James van Riemsdyk shovel pass on the powerplay.
With just six minutes to go, you could really sense the Leafs might just break through and tie this thing up.
Unfortunately, it didn’t play out that way. Dion Phaneuf took an ill-advised penalty for covering the puck with his hand with four minutes to go, and after that the Coyotes went into cruise control to seal the victory.
Phil Kessel was one of the few Leafs bright spots in what was largely a lifeless game from Toronto. He had two assists, generated the most meaningful offense for Toronto, and lead the team in puck possession also with a 58.62 CF% at 5v5.
- Both of the Leafs goals tonight came on the powerplay, going 2-for-5. In the Leafs previous 8 games, they had just 2 powerplay goals total.
- I don’t want to rag on the guy too hard, but Stephane Robidas has really struggled with little sign of improvement. He played just 11:48 again tonight and has by and large been a major disappointment this season.
- It’s hard to say if things will stay this way, but Randy Carlyle juggled up the lines again in the second and third period. They were as follows: van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel, Komarov-Holland-Clarkson, and Winnik-Kadri-Santorelli.
- Tonight’s Toronto Corsi King was, as previously mentioned, Phil Kessel at 58.62 CF%.
- By the way, team 5v5 Corsi numbers tonight: Arizona 54.05 CF%, Toronto 45.95 CF%.
- Did Carlyle make the right decision starting James Reimer tonight? Who knows for sure. I thought Reimer was solid but certainly not spectacular (he had a .909 save %). It’s anyone’s guess though on how Jonathan Bernier might have done. It’s tough to really blame Reimer as the team looked pretty lackadaisical in front of him for large chunks of the game.
- I will say this: it was nice to see Reimer get rewarded for such a great game Saturday. It seems like the last couple seasons it didn’t matter how he did, that Carlyle would always go back to Bernier. Reimer has mostly matched Bernier pound-for-pound this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out from here. You’d have to think Bernier will start Thursday though. Speaking of which…
SEE YOU THURSDAY
The Leafs mini-road swing continues, as the Leafs are in Denver to finish their trip off against the Avalanche. Puck drop is at 9:00PM Eastern on TSN4.